Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Transporting the Reader.

So I just finished reading HEARTS IN ATLANTIS by my hero, Stephen King. This guy has got to be the most misunderstood author ever. Both my mother in law and Grandmother shudder when they hear his name, though I'd bet a fortune neither have read so much as a paragraph of one of his novels. And the looks on the faces of some people when they're informed it was Stephen King who wrote THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION & STAND BY ME? Priceless.

They think he's just a horror author, good for gore and cheap thrills. They don't realize that not only does he write other things than horror, he is a master story-teller. He captures people's hopes, dreams, and fears and places them on the page for the reader. He builds worlds with such clarity that one can smell the air, spot the landmarks...and even draw a map. (Hey fellow SK fans...I'll meetcha in the Barrens in a few...we have a monster to kill.)  Okay, though I'm tempted to use IT as an example, I'm going to stick with HEARTS IN ATLANTIS.

The blurb on the back says it "...will take some readers to a place have never been...and others to a place they have never been able to leave completely."

Wow. I've never seen a blurb deliver exactly what it promises.

HEARTS IN ATLANTIS (the book, not the movie) was four stories and an epilogue in which the characters all intertwine in some way. And all were about the 60's and the effect it had on those people.

I wasn't born until '82 so it was definitely a whole new world to me. I love my historical novels for the same reason...but this was different. This was deeper, because though I'd never been in the 60's, I have friends who have, a lot of them Vietnam Veterans. They rarely ever speak of the war, especially to me...unless they are very drunk. To them, I'm still just a kid...and a girl at that. How could I ever understand? I was never there, of course I can't understand. I was never offended.

There are things people experience that many will never understand. I think of a crazy New Year's Eve when I was 13...the madness of that night is still too much to talk about except for a vivid memory of my mom shoving me into my room and screaming at me to barricade the door with my dresser. It was a huge dresser, I have no idea how I managed, but I did what she said...then I remember collapsing in tears and praying she'd be alive in the morning....and then nothing.

Anyway, after reading HEARTS IN ATLANTIS, I still don't really know what my drinking buddies have been through, but I think I may have a glimmer of understanding.

King didn't elaborate too much about the actual war, but more on the effects it had on people....still, since he was there in that era, I bet his drinking buddies were less reluctant to talk about it.  He didn't fight in 'Nam, but he'd wanted to. "Don't be an idiot, Stephen," his mother told him. "With your eyes, you'd be the first one to get shot. You can't write if you're dead." That was in ON WRITING and thank God for the wisdom of moms. But I now learned there was more to it than that.

Apparently back then, men in college had to keep a certain grade point average or else they'd get drafted. It was literally: STUDY OR DIE. My mind is still blown by that concept. I asked a few people if it was true and they just shrugged calmly. "Yup."

I think of the scene where the mother tells her son to work hard at his studies because boys who don't have been dying....and tears come to my eyes. Then King goes on to describe how the "peace sign" became the symbol of the war protests and so much more. To people of my generation it was just a cutesy retro design. But for a generation it actually MEANT something.

I'm not going to say anything good or bad about Vietnam or the protests or the government or anything like that....and for the record, I don't think Sai King really did either. He gave the reader an unbiased panorama of all sides. I wasn't there, I have no room to talk. But....while reading HEARTS IN ATLANTIS, I felt like I was for a minute.

And THAT'S the point of this post. I want to transport the reader to different worlds and perspectives. I want them to feel like they've REALLY been to the places I put on on a page. As writers we ALL should feel that way.

P.S. To the lazy-nicks out there: the movie only featured the 1st story...and they totally ruined it. But, Anthony Hopkins kicks ass and it's still worth watching. But to get what I'm talking about in this post, READ THE BOOK!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Book Binges

I've been mostly absent from the online universe lately primarily for two reasons: A.) I'm working on proposals for the next two novels in my series. and B.) I've been binge-reading like a sonovabitch.

To get my paranormal kicks I devoured CLAIMED by Rebecca Zanetti. Loved it. Then for historical inspiration...and the snuggle-y security of an old favorite: ALMOST HEAVEN by Judith McNaught. For the classics I'm reading LITTLE WOMEN...but the goody-goody-ness coupled with the knowledge that it doesn't end well has me taking a break from it to also read HEARTS IN ATLANTIS by my hero, Stephen King. And on the kindle I have two classics that may directly tie in to my current WIP.

I go on these binges periodically through my life. How much is motivated by the need to escape and how much is pure literary addiction, I have no idea.

I just wanted to let you all know I'm still alive and I love my online community...but as Sai King says: "If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write." ....that and my addiction calls.

What are you reading right now? What are some of your favorites?  

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Paranormal Thanksgiving: Top 10 things to be thankful for…Guest post by Jean Murray

Before things kick off, I just wanted to put and idea out there. 
Imagine setting a thanksgiving table for some of our paranormal brothers and sisters.  The menu would have to be quite varied to include: blood wine, raw turkey, stuffed brains, pickled souls and magick maze. Not to mention the dinner conversation and a closet big enough to put all the various weapons they carry.  And don’t get me started on seating arrangements.  A host nightmare for sure.

So in the spirit of our Paranormal Thanksgiving, what are you thankful for?

Here are a few of mine:  

10.  Werewolves are the good guys in Twilight Series.  And not bad to look at either…

9.  Session 1-9 of X-files is available on Netflix

8. Our Blood Sucking friends taking TV by storm: True Blood, Vampire Diaries, Being Human (click here to see the Top 10 Vampire TV series). 

7.  There is such a thing called HORROR Romance!!  Monsters need love too.

6.  Zombies aren’t just for horror movies any more.  They have eaten our hearts in books, TV and films. Walking Dead Series – Which character are you?  Come meet my REVENS.

5. Zombie Survival Guide available on Amazon.  Prepare for the worst J

4.  Hunter from the Midnight Breed Series has his own book.    

3. Our superheroes of yesteryears are making a comeback!  Whether genetic mutants or otherworldly visitors.

2.  No matter how much the industry says vampires are out, the living dead are not dead. 

1.  Long live the P word:  Paranormal romance novels are more popular than ever, consuming more bookshelf space at the bookstores.

What are you thankful for?

Jean Murray is the author of the Key to the Cursed Series: Three sisters and their fated mates on a journey of love, redemption and war. Soul Reborn starts the series based on Ancient Egyptian Mythos.  A fabulous mix of action, suspense and indelible love story appeals to both paranormal romance and urban fantasy readers.
Learn more about Soul Reborn:


Asar, the Egyptian God of the Underworld, has been tortured and left soulless by a malevolent goddess, relegating him to consume the very thing he was commissioned to protect. Human souls. Now an empty shell of hatred, Asar vows to kill the goddess and anyone involved in her release, but fate crosses his path with a beautiful blonde huntress who has a soul too sweet to ignore.

Lilly, fearless commander of the Nehebkau huntresses, is the only thing standing in the way of the goddess' undead army unleashing hell on earth.  But Lilly has a secret—one she is willing to sell her soul to keep. If the Underworld god discovers her role in the dig that released the goddess, she will lose everything, including his heart.

Soul Reborn Reviews:
Romantic Times (RT) Book Reviews (Sept2011) -  4/4.5 stars/Scorcher,
Find Jean at these locations:

Web Address: ;

Monday, November 21, 2011

WINNER! ...and Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe!

The winner of a copy of LORD AND LADY SPY by Shana Galen is: JAYMZANGEL! I'll be getting hold of you to pass on your address to Shana!

Now here's the recipe:

Required Materials: 
Roasting Pan
Aluminum Foil
Turkey Baster
Meat Thermometer

1: 15-20lb turkey (If larger may need to increase other ingredients)
1-2 stalks celery
1 large orange
1 onion (I prefer sweet)
1/2 to 1 head of garlic
1 big carrot or 8-10 baby carrots
1 1/2 to 3/4 bottle of ginger ale (2 liter)
1 can chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 tbs. thyme
2 tbs. parsley
2 tbs. sage
1 tbs. lemon pepper
1 tbs. Seasoned Salt (Johnny's or Lawry's is best!)

(I know it's a long list, but it's totally worth it!)
Okay, here we go.

Preheat oven to 350
Mix thyme, sage, parsley, lemon pepper, and seasoning salt in a small bowl
Chop the onion, carrot, and celery
Peel the garlic and split into segments
Peel the orange and split into segments

Line the roasting pan with enough foil to cover the turkey.
Remove the neck and giblets from turkey
Rub the herb mixture inside both neck and rear cavities of the turkey and a little on the outside.
Stuff turkey with chopped onion, carrot, celery, garlic, orange segments, and bay leaf.
Place turkey in roasting pan.
Pour all chicken broth and half required ginger ale into the cavity.
Truss the turkey and pour more ginger ale over bird and around it.

Make a foil tent over the bird, but try not to have the foil touch it.
Baste periodically and remove foil to allow turkey to brown 45 min to 1 hr before done.
Turkey is done when thermometer inserted into thickest part of the thigh reads 180 degrees.

Here is estimated cooking time by weight:
10-15 lbs = 3 3/4 -4 1/2 hrs. 15-22lbs = 4 1/2- 5 hrs
22-24lbs = 5- 5 1/2 hrs. 24-29lbs = 5 1/2- 6 1/4 hrs

When turkey is done, remove from oven, cover, and let stand 10- 15 min before carving. This allows the juices to resettle.

Bonus Gravy Recipe:
Ingredients: (To taste and as needed)
Turkey drippings/ marinade
Salt (if needed)
Black Pepper

Using the turkey baster, remove as much liquid from turkey as you need and heat it to boiling in a medium saucepan
Mix cornstarch with milk and add to boiling turkey drippings,
Slowly lower the heat and blend with a whisk.
thicken to desired texture and in the meantime season to taste with herbs and pepper. Try not to burn your tongue!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Blending History and Pop Culture By Shana Galen

Do you guys remember that book I was raving about a few weeks back? LORD AND LADY SPY by Shana Galen? Dude! Check it out! She's here today and has a copy to give away to one lucky reader! Squee!

When Brooklyn Ann invited me to blog here and suggested this topic, I was really excited. I can’t believe I haven’t ever blogged on the blend of history and pop culture before. In fact, I was so excited to blog on it, I couldn’t concentrate on the proposal I’m writing and had to work on this blog instead.

First, some background. I think the reason Brooklyn asked me to blog on this topic is because my most recent novel, Lord and Lady Spy, is a Regency-set wink at the movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. I say wink because the book and the movie don’t have much in common except the basic premise. Here’s a little about the book.

No man can outsmart him...

Lord Adrian Smythe may appear a perfectly boring gentleman, but he leads a thrilling life as one of England's most preeminent spies, an identity so clandestine even his wife is unaware of it. But he isn't the only one with secrets...

But one woman almost certainly can...

Now that the Napoleonic wars have come to an end, daring secret agent Lady Sophia Smythe can hardly bear the thought of returning home to her tedious husband. Until she discovers in the dark of night that he's not who she thinks he is after all...
The idea of taking a well-known premise, like Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, and tweaking it into something different but familiar isn’t new at all. I’m sure you’ve read at least one book touted as a re-telling of a fairy tale. And we are always taking history and making it pop culture. Think of Bridget Jones’s Diary, a retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, or Clueless, a re-telling of Austen’s Emma. And, although I wish I was the first to take pop culture and blend it with history, I’m not. I don’t know who the first was, but I do know Jenna Petersen did this years ago with her Lady Spies series which was an historical Charlie’s Angels.

But here is what I think makes blending pop culture and history so much fun, and why I think we’ll see more of it.

  1. Pop culture is accessible. Adrian and Sophia in Lord and Lady Spy don’t have access to grenades, automatic weapons, fast cars, or helicopters. I had to make a carriage chase and good old hand to hand combat fun and exciting. No special effects, which, let’s face it, don’t really work in books anyway. But I think the lack of special effects makes the story all that more accessible to readers. They know they could never be Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie firing those machine guns. But they could be Adrian or Sophia and run after a bad guy.

  1. Pop culture is familiar. One of the things we love about re-tellings of fairy tales is the blend of the familiar and the novel. What will be the same? What will be different? This is why we see the movie version of books we’ve read. We already know the story, but we wonder how the director and actors will change it, and if they’ll keep our favorite parts the same. I was really conscious of this when writing Lord and Lady Spy. I didn’t want to re-write Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Honestly, I didn’t even love the movie that much. But I did love the premise, and I thought there were certain scenes I could make work in a book. For example, somewhere in the movie—maybe when Brad and Angelina have finished destroying their house—they sit down and compare “war” stories and wounds. I knew I wanted a similar scene. It wouldn’t be the same by any means, but it would be familiar to readers and fun because of the new way I’d envisioned it.

  1. Pop culture is enduring. This isn’t to say that two hundred years from now, writers will be waxing poetic on Jersey Shore or Grey’s Anatomy, but the pop in pop culture stands for popular. If a movie or TV show is popular it must have some element that resonates with viewers. I believe the idea of a husband or wife having a sexy secret is what made Mr. and Mrs. Smith a success at the box office. Who, after a few years of marriage, wouldn’t be kind of excited to find out your other half is really a secret agent? And who wouldn’t also be royally annoyed that he or she kept such a secret? This is the element of Mr. and Mrs. Smith I focused on in Lord and Lady Spy. I wanted to know, how does a married couple keep such a secret and at what price? Further, can a marriage recover from such duplicity? Those are questions any romance author could write a book around. Adding the pop culture element makes it much more fun.

I want to thank Brooklyn Ann for asking me to blog today. And I’d love to give away a signed copy of Lord and Lady Spy to one person (open internationally) who comments today. Do you have a favorite story re-telling?


Shana Galen is the author of numerous fast-paced adventurous Regency historical romances, including the Rita-nominated Blackthorne’s Bride. Her books have been sold worldwide, including Japan, Brazil, Russia, Spain, Turkey, and the Netherlands, and have been featured in the Rhapsody and Doubleday Book Clubs. A former English teacher in Houston’s inner city, Shana now writes full time. She’s a wife, a mother, and an expert multi-tasker. She loves to hear from readers: visit her website at or see what she’s up to daily on Facebook and twitter.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sexual Objectification of Men in Romanceland: Part 2

Sorry for the delay, all. I've been busy working on another project (non-writing) that will be unveiled on Wednesday.

Okay, so in the last post we covered: YES, we romance readers definitely objectify men sexually...but that it isn't really a bad thing as I believe it supports gender equality....oh, and I threw in some hot eye candy as well. How did I forget that?

Now where was I... I need caffeine.

Oh yeah, today's post is how we do it better.

Point One: We lust after men with a variety of  appearances whereas the media seems to objectify on one type of woman.

I think they have serial numbers instead of souls.

Here's a pic of some lucky lady with a group of cover models.
Something for everyone here. I call dibs on the one with the long hair.

Point Two: We also care about the guy's personality and accomplishments. When all the guys are lusting after  (insert starlet name here), do they really care about what she does or how she feels about, well, anything? Now when romance fans are discussing books, you'll here things like: "Oooh that cover's yummy. Is it any good?" "Not really, the hero was an asshole/ moron. Try (insert title). The hero was hot...and sweet/ brave/smart/funny."

Point Three:  We welcome baggage. The media always bitches about women having "too much baggage." I dislike a drama queen as much as the next person, but it seems "baggage" has become a blanket term covering everything from life experience, to emotion, to even the slightest hint of a personality. It's like they want women to be cyborgs. 
Resistance is futile.
In romanceland we embrace heroes who'd been abused as children, heroes who've been emotionally traumatized by some other bitch (who hopefully gets what she deserves later in the story), heroes who've been physically tortured, etc.

Final point and summary: Although we lust after a hot romance hero, we also see him as a human being, with unique virtues and flaws. Romance heroes, as well as men in general, are all individual human beings. It makes the concept of falling in love (and lust) always fresh and exciting, no matter how many books we read.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Recipe: Cucumber Sandwiches

Being that it's Veteran's day, I didn't feel right sexually objectifying men today. So we'll get back to that on Monday. For now here's what I'm making for my 1st RWA meeting!

Not my picture, I still have no camera. Besides, mine have the skin peeled off

1 thin baguette 
1-2 cucumbers, depending on size
4 oz cream cheese
2 Tbs cider vinegar
2 Tbs butter
2 tbs mayonnaise 
a few drops Worcestershire sauce
garlic salt
seasoned salt
dill weed

Lightly toast the baguette and then slice it evenly. Lightly butter each slice.
Peel cucumber and slice it in half lengthwise to scoop out the seeds.
Slice cucumber halves
Mix all other ingredients in a bowl and season to taste. 
Spread mixture on buttered slices and add pieces of cucumber. 


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sexual Objectification of Men in Romanceland: Part 1

Face it, we totally do it.

A few prime examples:



Oh my!
And it's not just the covers. Hop on twitter and follow a few romance readers and/ or writers and you'll hear all sorts of talk that probably trumps what one would hear in a men's locker room... I think. Really, I have no clue, but trust me, we get all kinds of dirty. :)

As for categories of preferred novels, we in romance-land totally navigate by the type of guy. Cowboys, Navy Seals, Vampires, Dukes, even firemen. There's categories of um...certain videos for men that are organized in a similar manner.

See, sexual objectification all the way.

And I don't think it's a necessarily a bad thing. First off, I think it speaks highly for gender equality. For years, many women have protested against the rampant sexual objectification of women in the media. The feminists point the blame at our patriarchal society. I think that's not completely accurate. I think much of sexual objectification comes from the fact that humans are sexual beings. Now...with the majority of the objectification being of women by men...yeah, there's a point there.

But....I believe that many in society have been doing their part to level the playing field, with the romance genre leading the fray...and scoring points. I have a theory that the infamous volleyball scene in Top Gun was truly intended to be targeted for women, despite the homo-erotic accusations it receives. I think someone in the film crew walked by a display of NYT bestselling romance novels adorned with topless Fabio and thought, "Hey, the ladies like their eye candy, too! Let's throw em a bone and maybe we'll do better in the box office?"  

Monday, November 7, 2011

Trope Talk: Guardian/ Ward

I've been wanting to do a series of posts on tropes for awhile. They are so prominent in the romance genre that one cannot escape them in one way or another. But I say this isn't necessarily a bad thing. I don't know about you, but I'll often buy books because I'm craving a certain trope. Sometimes that backfires miserably. And sometimes I'll read a book that features a trope I usually loathe, but this time I enjoy it.

It all depends on how the trope is handled.

So here's my first trope:

Most often found in historical romances is the GUARDIAN and WARD romance:

What is appealing about this trope?

1.) The aspect of the forbidden: The hero is responsible for the heroine's well-being and often it's his job to ensure she has a successful anyone but him. Delicious!

2.) The characters often get more "screen time" alone together and have the opportunity for more intimacy...and hilarious hijinks.

3.) Some readers like older men. (I think that's part of why I like vampires.)

When this trope goes wrong:

1.) When the hero was the heroine's guardian for a long time, or knew her since she was a child. This kinda brings some pedophilia contexts to it. Ewwww.

2.) When the situation in which the hero becomes her guardian is ridiculously unbelievable. Any time the reader is pulled out of the story shaking her head is bad.

3.) Any instance when it's treated like a parent/ child situation. For any edgy role-play, we can pick up some erotica instead.

Some good examples of the Guardian/ Ward trope done well.

THE TAMING OF THE DUKE by Eloisa James. Book 3 in the awesome Essex Sisters quartet, I think it was my favorite and the most unique use of the trope.

In book one, when the hero discovers he's to become guardian to his old friend's four daughters, he turns a room into a nursery, fills it with toys and hires nursemaids...only to discover that all four are grown women. LOL! The one he ends up with is Imogen, though they hated each other on sight and the hostility continues for over two books straight. Like with most Eloisa James novels, one should read the books in order to better enjoy the fun.

SEDUCED by Virginia Henley

This one is awesome because it also involved another of my favorite tropes: Girl disguised as boy. When twin siblings, Anthony and Antonia Lamb go out sailing, there's an accident and the brother is lost at sea. Antonia then disguises herself as her brother to prevent an evil cousin from inheriting. Things get crazy when the twins' guardian arrives and makes it his mission in life to make a man out of her. The best part? SHE ends up seducing him! (But in disguise as a random Italian partying woman) ...and he nearly craps a brick when he finds out who she is.

What are some other guardian/ ward tropes you've enjoyed? What ones make you cringe? Which tropes do you think I should cover next?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Why I'm doing NaNo this year....sorta.

In the last few weeks I've discovered a small (thankfully temporary) downside to getting a book deal: the "not writing" part. While waiting to begin edits on my novel, I occupied myself with research and notes for subsequent books in the series...but I don't want to go too far and fall in love with an idea only to have my editor not like it. I've also been working at keeping up with my social networking, which thanks to all you awesome people, doesn't really feel like work. But...I MISS writing! I miss bringing characters and adventures to life on the page.

So...mere hours before it started, I've decided to unofficially do NaNoWrimo. I'm doing another novella in my rock star series. Like my last one, it's a pure guilty pleasure project. I've had the premise and some fun scenes floating in my head for months and NaNo gave me the perfect excuse to indulge myself.

In summary, this project is pure playtime in which I give myself full permission to write junk and have fun with obvious and not so obvious references to both fiction and the heavy metal subculture. I.E. In the real world, there's a "Big Six" in publishing and the "Big Four" in Thrash metal. In my fictional world, I have a "Big Six" in thrash metal, LOL. I also named the band in this project, VishÓ§us. ;)

Taking great hair and great music to the next level? How can I resist?

But as I have no idea where and if this series would fit in the market, I am not that emotionally invested in it. When the time comes to get back to work on BITE ME, YOUR GRACE, I can close this document without regret.

Because I now realize what NaNoWrimo is all about. Getting writers doing what they do best: WRITING.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Writers: Don't Stop Blogging! ....Unless you hate it.

I'm waaay late to the party on this one, but since it's a topic that likely won't go away for a long time, I think it's okay for me to weigh in.

A few weeks ago, the blogosphere exploded on the subject of, well, blogging. Awesome author, Roni Loren, gives a nifty list of links to the debate here. Also, you should totally follow her blog because she's one of the best out there. She's always on top of what's going on. Whereas I am not, as you can see. (Hey, I was sick that week, then my blog was booked up with awesome guest authors and Halloween fun. In my universe, Halloween takes precedence over current events...unless it's the zombie apocalypse)

Anyway, two of the main debates are: Should an author bother to blog? If so, what should they blog about? An agent caused a furor over this advice: "Don't blog about writing."

Anyway, here's my opinions on these matters:



A) To connect with other authors.
I've met the greatest people through blogging as well as found valuable information on all aspects of the journey.

B) Blogging may not equal BIG sales, but it does equal sales. I have bought books because I liked the person's blog.

C) Book giveaways and contests are the BEST!

Who doesn't like winning free books? If authors stop blogging, then those awesome giveaways stop and that will make this poor smut-writing-janitor very sad. Also, these giveaways do equal sales and connections in miraculous ways. Here are some examples:

  1. I have a very limited budget so I am careful on who I buy. If I win a book and love it, I will buy the next one and be a customer for life. AND I spread the word to my friends, who then buy the book as well. 
  2. An author once ran a contest in which she awarded a full manuscript critique to the winner. I won and her critique made the book awesome enough to get my book deal.
  3. Through blog tours and giveaways I have made friends and valuable connections. They promote me to their readers and vice-versa

 Pretty cool, huh? And all of this came from author blogs.

Now to the next point:


My short answer: Anything!!!

As for the "don't blog about writing bit," I say, go ahead and blog about writing, just don't be boring. I think Chuck Wendig has one of the most entertaining blogs out there...and it's all about writing.

However, the whole "not blogging about writing" admonishment was a bit of a relief to me. For the longest time I had believed the opposite and felt guilty for my nothing-to-do-with-writing posts. But now that I figured out how to track my most popular posts...check it out! Most of them have little-to-nothing to do with writing!

Then there's the advice to write about a niche. I simply can't do that. I have too many interests, which is why you'll see everything from cats to rock stars to movies on here. And ya' know what? When I let go of the guilt and let things be that way, my traffic went up exponentially.

The summary? Blog about whatever you want, as long as you be yourself.

And finally, if you hate blogging, (and it's pretty obvious if you do since your posts are probably sporadic or dry as burnt toast) then DON'T do it. Find some other way to connect to readers. The options are limitless.